Kevin Lyons Tells Us Why Clothing Is the World's Best Billboard and the Futility of Design Perfection

The multi-hypenate talks his collaboration with Stance, his relationship with the soon-to-close colette, and much more.

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Kevin Lyons is nothing if not busy. In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t too long ago HYPEBEAST last spoke to him, but the multi-hypenate is an endless treasure trove of tidbits, information and facts, ensuring that reading any interview he does is always a worthy activity. His work as an illustrator, graphic designer, creative director, typographer and artist has touched on many subjects — be it paying homage to J Dilla or working with seminal French stores that are now unexpectedly closing.

In that vein, we meet Lyons in colette, the famed concept store which has just announced that it will be shuttering its doors for good in December. And, while the news hadn’t broken at the time, in hindsight it makes the reason for our meeting – a collaboration with Stance socks, Lyons and the seminal Parisian destination, which follows on from a partnership that began nearly a decade ago – all the more poignant.

Lyons has long worked in Paris, be it with Stance or other outlets, seeing him visit the French capital up to six times a year. In fact, the reason he first came out to the city was solely because of colette.

Working With colette

“[We started working together] purely by happenstance,” says Lyons. “I was invited by Sarah [Andelman] to a year end group show at the end of 2007 that was held in the gallery.” The use of a single artwork turned into a bag which then turned into an entire show. The other thing Lyons notes is how supportive Andelman and colette have been of what is now seen as his signature creations. “The monster characters weren’t that well known at the time and she became their champion, as it were, and really helped give me a stage to show those to the world. She’s been super supportive ever since.”

One of the reasons why they clicked is because Lyons is able to see projects through from start to finish in a way other artists can’t. “I started as a graphic designer, so when she asks for something it’s not just submitting a piece of art. I can design the bag and the box and bring it to print and I know branding well. I know what she’s looking for and we just have a really good rapport. I can create a world versus just a single piece of art that then someone has to take and put on stuff.” This rapport meant that when Stance approached colette to collaborate, Lyons was one of two artists on the list.

Kevin Lyons

“Stance had asked colette to do a sock with them and Sarah picked two artists, one of them was myself,” says Lyons. “Stance got really excited and invited me to do a whole collection.” The other reason behind this collaboration was Lyons personal interest in making a pair of socks. “I’ve been trying to do socks for a long time with my characters on them and it’s been really difficult.” Lyons noted that he’d often reached sample stage of production and was so unhappy with the results he’d stop making them.

“The printing was the main issue and then the quality of the sock wasn’t very good,” he says. Either it’d come out in a low resolution or the characters would morph and change, making them not what Lyons intended them to be. “And then a lot of the socks were just so cheap – a lot of people can print on socks but then, after one wash, they look terrible or fall apart. Stance had a really nice combination of really good art reproduction coupled with really really good quality socks.” This combination meant that the collaboration was something of a no-brainer for the designer.

The Power of Putting Designs on Clothes

Kevin Lyons

When we discovered Lyon’s desire to put his designs on socks, we asked him what it was that interested him about putting his work on clothes. Citing his previous work with Nike, Stussy and Girls Skateboards, he replies, “I’m very familiar with working my graphics on products. Products is one of the best sources to get your work around, I see it like a subway car to a graffiti writer. The more products to put your stuff on, the more people can enjoy your work. I see products as a palette, as a canvas to just spread the joy or the craziness of my characters.” This outlook means that he avoids working like other artists “who are looking to jump from gallery to gallery.”

Lyons is nothing if not busy, so how does he juggle all his work? “It’s a little bit difficult to juggle everything. I do enough product work so that I’m allowed to go paint a wall somewhere in Hawaii not worry about making money for a week.” But, with that said, there are times when he’s “just victim to timelines and schedules where you try to do the best you can. Trust me, I don’t do it well all the time. I’m sure I drive brands crazy.”

Striving for Imperfection

And is some of the issue here striving for design perfection? “Of course. Perfection is always an issue. As a designer I try to make it perfect and, even if it looks sloppy, I’m perfecting the sloppiness down to a T. Sometimes I think too much about it instead of just going with the first gut reaction. The danger is always overworking something to the point where it looks like it’s overworked.” For Lyons the goal for his works is “to be emotional. I want it to look like it was painted and not like it was manufactured and overthought by a bunch of people in the boardroom. It should look like someone had fun making it.”

“As a designer I try to make it perfect and, even if it looks sloppy, I’m perfecting the sloppiness down to a T.”

As you’d expect for Lyons, he has a busy time planned ahead. He’ll be showcasing a mural at POW! WOW! Long Beach, as well as Eastern market Mural in Detroit. “I go back to painting to street art and then back to product. There’s an adidas Skateboarding project coming up in 2019 and a thing with Timberland and Mountain Dew in 2018.” And, to top all of that off, there’s also his own brand of T-shirts based on his Natural Born Monsters range coming soon. In his own words, “It kinda all keeps rolling.”

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Stance

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